Orchid Biology and Conservation Unit


Conserve over 650 species and 200 hybrids of orchids in more than 2000 accessions

Orchids were one of the favourite groups of plants of Prof. A. Abraham, the founder Director of TBGRI and along with his student P. Vatsala, An Introduction to Orchids, a book on South Indian orchids was published (Abraham & Vatsala, 1981). Recognizing the future potential of this promising floriculture crop scientific study and conservation were initiated way back in 1983.Collecting expeditions were conducted to different areas of India, especially, the Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats, the North East and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands resulting in en masse sampling of specimens which are grown and cared for in the Species House, one of the five orchidaria where orchids are currently conserved. We have now over 650 species and 200 hybrids of orchids in more than 2000 accessions.

Taxonomic studies conducted based on these collections resulted in the discovery of three new genera (Ebarnesia, Luisiopsis and Seidenfadeniella) and over a dozen new species (Bulbophyllum kannurense Sathish et al., B. manipurense Sathish & Suresh, B. rheedei Manilal & Sathish, B. rosemarianum Sathish et al., Cheirostylis seidenfadeniana Sathish & F. Rasm., Dendrobium hkinhumense Ormerod & Sathish, Didymoplexis seidenfadenii Sathish & Ormerod, Eria tiagii Manilal, Sathish & J. J. Wood, Gastrochilus wayanadicus Sathish et al., Goodyera myanmarica Ormerod & Sathish, Oberonia agastyamalayana Sathish, O. munnarensis Sathish et al., Rhytionanthos indicum Sathish & Garay, R. zeylanicum Sathish & Garay, Smithsonia saldanhae Sathish & Theuerkauf andTrias bonaccordensis Sathish). Detailed studies also resulted in the proposal of several combinations: Aehenrya rotundifolia (Blatt.) Sathish & F. Rasm., 2. Pecteilis hawkesiana (King & Pantl.) Sathish, Kingidium mysorense (Saldanha) Sathish, Pachystoma hirsutum (Joseph & Vajravelu)Sathish & Manilal and 5. Trias crassifolia (Thw.) Sathish. Intensive floristic surveys resulted in the discovery of many orchids as new records for the country: 1. Bulbophyllum propinquum Krzln., 2. Cleisostoma rolfeanum (King & Pantl.) Garay, 3. Denbdrobium panduratum Lindl., 4. Eria globulifera Seidenf., 5. Oberonia thwaitesii Hook. f.,6. Phalaenopsis fasciata Rchb. f., and 7. Vanda thwaitesii Hook. f. Many orchids that were described long back and lost in cultivation were rediscovered after over a century; 1. Brachycorythis wightii Summerh., 2. Dendrobium panduratum Lindl., Ipsea malabarica (Rchb. f.) Hook. f., 4. Vanda thwaitesii Hook. f. and 5. V. wightii Rchb. f. Detailed accounts of the orchid flora of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Western Ghats, Sikkim, Manipur and Myanmar were also published. Under the Dr B P Pal National Environment Fellowship of the Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India a detailed study on the Rare and Threatened Orchids was made for a Red Data Book on Indian Orchids. JNTBGRI was recognized as the coordinating Centre for All India Co-ordinated Taxonomy Project (AICOPTAX) on orchids.

An intensive breeding programme was initiated in 1995 with a view to tap the potential of species and genera of orchids that were never utilized before. Thus the genera Cottonia, Ipsea and Smithsonia along with many showy but underutilized species were combined in breeding. This resulted in some striking generic combinations and colours in hybrids. Ipseglottis Prof. A. Abraham, a new hybrid genus combined the qualities of Ipsea malabarica and Spathoglottis plicata. Arachnostylis Silver Jubilee, a bigeneric hybrid created out of Arachnis labrosa and Rhynchostylis retusa is a good example of a promising hybrid. So also Aranda Blue Mist produced out of a cross between Aranda Eric Mekie and Vanda coerulea. The first lady’s slipper hybrid of India Paphiopedilum M. S. Valiathan produced out of a cross between our native P. druryi and the Thai P. exul has proved to be a fine hybrid of international quality. More than a dozen new hybrids have been so far registered and an equal number are at various stages of growth.

We have also been undertaking reproductive biology studies of a number of Indian species like Paphiopedilum druryi, Ipsea malabarica, Phaius luridus, Vanda thwaitesii, V. wightii, etc. to understand the population dynamics including pollination, fruit set, annual recruitment, death of individuals, etc. Training for students and farmers is also being offered in scientific study of orchids and farm management, cultivation and package of practices.



Carnivorous Plants

Carnivorous plants are those that catch insects and other animals and digest them eventually to supplement their nutritional requirements. Carnivore has been established in ±600 species of plants that grow throughout the world where light and moisture are usually abundant but soil macronutrients especially nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are severely limiting. They possess a cluster of characters i.e., a syndrome that enable them to attract, catch and digest preys.

Carnivorous plants are undoubtedly the strangest creations of Nature. Two types of carnivorous plants can be distinguished. Sundew (Drosera), Butterwort (Pinguicula) and North American pitcher plants (Darlingtonia, Heliamphora and Sarracenia) have leaves that can both photosynthesize and capture preys. The Australian pitcher plant (Cephalotus), Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula), Bladderworts (Utricularia) or the Old World pitcher plants (Nepenthes) produce leaves that can photosynthesize but do not capture prey, and or produce traps that capture prey and photosynthesize little. They kill a variety of living things like insects, spiders, crustaceans and other small soil and water-living invertebrates and protozoans, lizards, mice, rats and other small vertebrates.

Being curious and uncommon and not easily seen by all, carnivorous plants are treated as wonders of the plant kingdom. We grow carnivorous plants primarily for education to instil interest in children about the mechanisms of trapping and ways of digesting small animals. Venus Fly Trap and Nepenthes are surely the star attractions. We grow them, breed them and use them for better understanding of the children. We receive a lot of visitors especially students and teachers who want to learn more about carnivorous plants and get enthralled by them.

Carnivorous Plants in JNTBGRI collection:

  • Aldrovanda vesiculosa
  • Dionaea muscipula
  • Drosera adelae F. Muell.
  • D. burmanii
  • D. capensis L.
  • D. indica
  • D. madagascariensis DC.
  • D. prolifera C. T. White
  • Nepenthes albomarginata T. Lobb ex Lindl.
  • N. khasiana Hook. f.
  • N. mirabilis (Lour.)Druce
  • N. ventricosa Blanco
  • N. chaniana C. Clarke, C. C. Lee & S. McPherson
  • N. hamata x N. platychila
  • N. glandulifera C. C. Lee
  • N. gracillima Ridl.
  • N. maxima x N. boschiana
  • N. ampullaria x N. veitchii
  • N. ampullaria
  • N. rafflesiana Jack.
  • N. stenophylla Mast.
  • N. truncata Macfarlane
  • Pinguicula cyclosecta
  • Pinguicula sp.
  • Sarracenia leucophyllya
  • S. oreophila
  • S. flava
  • S. rubra
  • S. psittacina
  • S. purpurea
  • Utricularia sp.








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